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Plantlife gives a cautious welcome to new Global Strategy for Plants

Plantlife welcomes the updated Global Strategy but calls for more practical implementation and action to halt plant diversity losses.

November 01 2010

An Alpine meadow: the Global Strategy for Plants aims to protect sites like these. © Beth Newman/Plantlife

An Alpine meadow: the Global Strategy for Plants aims to protect sites like these. © Beth Newman/Plantlife

Delegates at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan, have endorsed an updated Global Strategy for Plant Conservation on 29th October, committing governments – including the UK coalition government – to take action to safeguard plant diversity.

The first Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was published in 2000. Since then local, national and international botanical and conservation communities have embraced it, worked hard to deliver targets, cajoled governments to become engaged and come together to report results. This has all been undertaken on a fraction of the resources really necessary to achieve a major reduction in the rate of plant diversity loss.

Progress to date

So far, good progress has been made. Plantlife is a leading proponent of Target 5 which aims to conserve the world's most important areas for plant diversity. Plantlife has worked with experts in many countries to help identify, promote and conserve such Important Plant Areas. Now 66 countries around the world have programmes aimed at delivering this target. Plantlife has also worked with the Planta Europa network to secure a European Strategy for Plants and with government and non-governmental partners in the UK to ensure a coherent plan – Plant Diversity Challenge – for the UK’s plant diversity.

An updated strategy – is it a triumph for plant conservation?

The world’s governments have now adopted an updated Global Strategy for Plants. This means that all governments – including the UK coalition government – are obliged to specifically address the conservation of plant diversity within a programme of activity to halt the loss of biodiversity over the next ten years. This should also be reflected in the country biodiversity strategies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Boy with collection of medicinal plants © Banan Al-Sheihk

The GSPC aims to protect livelihoods dependent on plants while promoting sustainability. © Banan Al-Sheihk

Where do we need more action to achieve results?

Plantlife is pleased to see the ratification of the new GSPC, but reserves judgement. Plantlife is waiting – and continuing to campaign – to ensure that more investment and more action achieves results for plants – and thus for wildlife and our health overall.

In the last ten years, the least progress has been made in targets where cross-sector cooperation is essential - farmland will not be managed to boost plant diversity if huge subsidies push farmers to intensify production, turning agricultural land into a monocultural desert through pesticide and fertiliser use; plant based products will not be derived sustainably if producers are not required to make this happen; the best sites for plants will not be protected if governments around the world ignore Environmental Impact Assessments. The barriers remain high.

Plantlife calls for all land management to be 'plant-proofed'.

It is not enough to have a few nature reserves scattered across the globe. To halt the loss of plant diversity, Plantlife believes we need to 'plant-proof' all land management activity - in other words to ask of each project, programme and policy, “Do all the actions involved in this address the needs of plants? Are they aimed at restoring plant diversity as a first step towards conserving other wildlife? Are they maintaining or restoring ecosystem health and function?”

Plantlife has explained how this can be done in the UK in our unique manifesto for plants The Ghost Orchid Declaration and, if implemented, one that will have far reaching positive implications for all our wildlife, for our health and for the health of the whole countryside. In the UK it is not always about more resources but about better application of the resources available.

"Plants are fundamentally important to everything we do, to what we are and what mankind needs to survive."

Elizabeth Radford, Plantlife’s International Programme Manager

Plants are important to everything we do

Elizabeth Radford, Plantlife’s International Programme Manager, said: “It seems, despite Plantlife’s efforts, that we are still waiting for the understanding to dawn that plants are fundamentally important to everything we do, to what we are and what mankind needs to survive. If you look after the plants then everything else will follow - food, fuel, wildlife, medicine, better control of water resources, clean water, clean air and more.”

A little more would go a long way

In many parts of the world lack of investment in conservation remains a huge issue; along with good governance to ensure any investment is used wisely. “Plantlife celebrates the achievements of the last ten years, which took place because we have a Global Strategy for Plants, and we are pleased we have a global political framework for plant conservation for the next ten,” added Ms Radford, “but we are still waiting for signs that the world’s governments really do take the conservation of plant diversity seriously because they are prepared to put the resources behind it. Those supporting the GSPC have achieved a great deal with very little – a little more would surely go a long way.”

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Radford International Programme Manager T 01722 342736
Sue Nottingham/Sarah Unitt Press Office T 01722 342739